Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.
John McCain on Monday became the first senator to call for airstrikes in Syria, saying that an international effort was needed to protect civilians and carve out safe havens for opposition forces in a nation where an escalating government crackdown has claimed thousands of lives.
"The kinds of mass atrocities that NATO intervened in Libya to prevent in Benghazi are now a reality in Homs," McCain said in a speech on the Senate floor. "Indeed, Syria today is the scene of some of the worst state-sponsored violence since Milosevic's war crimes in the Balkans, or Russia's annihilation of the Chechen city of Grozny."
The Arizona senator acknowledged that by committing foreign forces there was an inherent danger of fanning the flames of existing sectarian conflict. Still, the former GOP presidential nominee said that the risk would exist whether or not the United States got involved. It was only a matter of time, he said, before foreign powers would confront the Assad regime with military force, "with or without us."
Establishing safe havens in the northern part of the country would permit the Free Syrian Army and other armed groups to better organize themselves against state forces while enabling the delivery of humanitarian and military assistance, McCain said.
As many as 2,000 Syrians have fled Homs province to neighboring Lebanon since Sunday, while an estimated 7,000 Syrians have died since the beginning of the uprising nearly a year ago that has sought to overthrow President Bashar Assad, notes CNN. Likewise, Assad’s forces are still denying the Red Cross entrance into Homs, and accounts from refugees from the city suggest a humanitarian catastrophe.